New Year Mindset 2022

New year, new me? Let’s do it the right way.  

It’s not particularly revelatory to say the past two years have been challenging for everyone in various ways. In a bid to mark Blue Monday with a manifesto for positivity, this blog aims to explore the lingering effects of Covid-19 on mental health and wellbeing in the UK on both a human and a professional level: what does this mean for the wider community, and what does it mean for us, in a work situation? By understanding the social and economic factors that have impacted so many lives, we can hope to tackle the ongoing situation in a better way, with a positive mindset. 

The potential for Covid to impact on mental health is self-evident. When the first lockdown happened, we experienced limited outdoor exposure, social distancing, and self-isolation – as well as the closure of schools, workplaces, and limited job opportunities. Beyond lockdown #1, ongoing restrictions have played a key role in the overall increase of mental health symptoms among society, as many have been stuck indoors with limited interactions and a fear of the unknown.  

The changes brought about by the pandemic also had some unexpected outcomes: bulk buying, a global chip shortage, the rise of entrepreneurs, a spike in the price of puppies, the phenomenon of TikTok dancers and – of course – banana bread for all. Although we’ve faced significant challenges along the way, many have experienced positive lifestyle changes and have adapted to uncertainty with resilience. As 2022 begins, so does the possibility for personal growth and development and a light at the end of what has been a very long tunnel.  

What does research tell us?  

To alleviate some of the mental health stresses we’ve experienced, we need to recognise what caused them and understand the impact they’ve had.  

Research highlights, perhaps predictably, that we’ve all experienced similar challenges. There was financial uncertainty as well as health concerns that effected all age demographics, and no one was immune.  

Younger adults aged between 18-34 have shown the highest decline in mental health, which can be linked to uncertainty in employment prospects (M. Daly et al, cited in Saha, 2006). Adults aged between 35-49 showed a similar increase in stress relating to financial security compared to 50–64 age groups, who exhibited a higher risk of symptoms related to loneliness highlighted by (R.C. O’Connor, et al 2021).  

From a more subjective standpoint, it’s easy to understand the impact of the pandemic on mental health from lived experience. Uncertainty and variability played their part too in impacting peoples mindsets. In our offices, the ongoing presence of the virus itself and our continued adherence to the changing guidance from government have made it difficult for all of us to establish a routine; to be confident that we’ll see each other next week. Today all plans necessarily come with a caveat and for many that can be unsettling: we’ll have that meeting at your office unless…; let’s have after-work drinks on Friday, provided… 

So what does this mean on a personal level? We are in a brand-new year, and with it comes brand new opportunities. It can be easy to feel the weight of it all as many challenges haven’t disappeared, however it’s how we choose to look at these that will determine how we feel.  

Today is Blue Monday, which is meant to be the saddest day of the year – and it’s easy to understand why. But it doesn’t need to be that way.  

How to make resolutions work for you 

By breaking down our resolutions into 3 key stages, we can proactively manage our mental health whilst taking small steps towards personal growth and understanding ourselves better.  

1. Building Routines   

Daily routines can help us to implement new regimes, by starting with smaller tasks and increasing momentum when comfortable. Similar to aspiring bodybuilders, they will start their journey with smaller manageable weights until their body has built enough strength to lift heavier and more sets of weights. As they progress, their body starts to adapt to the changes by building more strength to compensate. The same approach applies to the most important organ in your body…The brain. It’s all about training yourself to integrate new habits that will reduce stress and promote healthier outcomes.  

2. Challenges to Overcome 

As we take on resolutions, we’re bound to run into some hiccups along the way, that’s life! The most important aspect is to not completely give up before seeing the outcome; to remember we’re working from the inside out, so instant results are not always possible. The aim of the game is to incorporate routines into our lifestyle, which at first might seem challenging, but the more often we train ourselves to form positive habits, the more natural they will become. 

3. Balancing the Scales 

Balance is everything, so ensure you’re working towards your goals and enjoying them at the same time by being present in the moment. Otherwise happiness is forever delayed: your focus is always on by the next step and we become blind to appreciating how far we’ve already come. Take a moment whenever possible to be still and appreciate where you’re currently at.  

Top tips:  

  • Set realistic targets and rewards to achieve milestones. You don’t need to commit to getting up at 5am and drinking a kale smoothie every day 
  • Don’t stop your new routine for more than 7 days 
  • Accept the past and reduce over-fixation on the future i.e. be present in every moment. I can be very easy to reflect over the last two years badly, but that doesn’t help you now 

Lastly, the whole point of ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ is to resolve. So, after a challenging few years, it all boils down to the fact that we can’t control the world around us, but we can certainly control our own mindset combined and how we react to these changes: after all, change is our only constant so let’s work with it.  

Daly., A. R. Sutin., E. Robinson (2020). ‘Longitudinal changes in mental health and the COVID-19 pandemic: evidence from the UK Household Longitudinal Study.  Psychology Medicine 1-10. 
Saha, S. (2006). ‘Improving literacy as a means to reducing health disparities’. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 21, 893–895. 
R.C. O’Connor., K. Wetherall., S. Cleare., H. McClelland., A. J. Melson., C.L. Niedzwiedz., R.E. O’Carroll., D.B. O’Connor et al. (2021). ‘Mental Health and well-being during Covid-19 pandemic: Longitudinal analyses of adults in the UK COVID-19 Mental Health & Wellbeing study. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 326-333.